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(PHOTOS) Medicaid expansion supporters rally outside capitol

(Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Bearing colorful signs and bright neon shirts that read “Expand Wyoming Medicaid,” local health advocates and community members rallied in front of the capitol this afternoon during the state Legislature’s General Session.

“We are here because we want legislators to pass Medicaid expansion,” shouted rally organizers from the Healthy Wyoming Coalition. “We can do it. They can do it.”

If lawmakers pass House Bill 80, or the Medical Treatment Opportunity Act, in the upcoming weeks, around 19,000 additional Wyomingites will be able to enroll in the federal healthcare program.

Eligibility is currently based on factors including income, household size, and family status. The expansion would allow people to qualify solely based on their income, which has to be up to 133% above the federal property level.

The coalition, which comprises several local health and community organizations, has been a constant advocate for the bill.

From 1 to 2 p.m., dozens of rallygoers held up pro-Medicaid signs and listened to health professionals, lawmakers and community members talk about the benefits of enrolling in the program.

“I see substantial differences in access to healthcare when someone does not have any insurance,” said Dr. Jasper Chen, a psychiatrist from the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. “Simply having or not having insurance of any kind — including Medicaid — can set the stage for what treatments … are available for people.”  

As a single mother with an autoimmune disease, Tania Malone told rallygoers that she relies on Medicaid to pay her medical bills. The expansion would give single parents the resources they need to provide for their families.

“As a single parent, it feels like we’re punished,” Malone said. “We try to better ourselves [financially], but then we get kicked off of Medicaid. … We need a system that sets our single parents up for success, not for failure.”

Kathleen Petersen puts on a T-shirt during a protest for Medicaid Expansion organized by the Healthy Wyoming Coalition during the first day of the 2023 Wyoming Legislature session on Tuesday, Jan. 10 in Cheyenne. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
(Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
Former Rep. Pat Sweeney talks during a rally in support of Medicaid expansion on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, in Cheyenne. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
(Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)